(/sites/default/files/uploads/2013/09/50030.jpg)Another week, another jaw-dropping development in Sweden. A couple of weeks ago it was the cockamamie “hijab solidarity” campaign, in which non-Muslim women all over the country donned head coverings in tribute to a Muslim woman who claimed a man had yanked hers off. This week, the eyebrow-raising news is that Sweden is offering instant permanent residency to any and all Syrian refugees who apply. These newly minted residents, moreover, will be entitled to bring over their spouses and kids. The reasoning behind this new policy is that the situation in Syria is extremely dangerous right now and not likely to improve anytime soon.
To be sure, even before this announcement Sweden’s asylum policy was extremely openhanded. Sweden has taken in about 15,000 Syrian refugees since 2012, more than any other EU member state. About half of the Syrians who have sought asylum in Sweden so far this year have been granted permanent residency; the other half have been allowed to stay for three years, but will now be able to trade up to permanent status. All told, just under 8000 Syrians are now temporary Swedish residents and will be eligible to stay in Sweden for good.
Before this new policy was announced, the number of Syrians seeking asylum in Sweden was over 1000 a month. But now? The sky’s the limit. Think about it: Syria’s population is 22.5 million, of which about 5000 are fleeing the country every day. More than two million Syrians have fled their country since the civil war began, and there’s no sign of that number abating. As for Sweden, its population is 9.5 million, of which about 1.5 million are foreign-born and about 2.5 million have foreign backgrounds. Earlier this year, Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billström called current immigration levels “unsustainable” – only to be quickly shut down by Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag, who assured all and sundry that Sweden had no plans to tighten its immigration rules.
What Syrian wouldn’t take Sweden up on such an offer? It means not only a residency card but also an elaborate benefits package including free money, housing, health care, day care – you name it.
Before this week Sweden’s immigration policy was already suicidal; it’s hard not to see the new policy as an effort to turn slow-motion self-slaughter into something more like a leap off a cliff. The sheer numbers aside, how many of the newcomers will be members of Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and so on? The main reason for the three-year temporary residency was that Swedish authorities needed time to do background checks. Have they decided to abandon those checks entirely?
When I read about the new policy, my first thought was that surely there must be somebody in Sweden who’s standing up and shouting: “Stop! Are we all crazy?” So I looked at the editorial pages of a few Swedish newspapers. Nope. The editors of Aftonbladet, for example, complained that Sweden hadn’t gone far enough, and lamented the fact that the rest of Europe wasn’t joining in. Noting that European countries have taken in about 40,000 Syrians, the editors complained that this wasn’t nearly sufficient. “We have built,” they complained, “a ‘Fortress Europe.‘”
Yes, “Fortress Europe.” Pause for a moment to take that one in. Over the last couple of generations, Western Europe has welcomed immigrants from the Muslim world on a scale such as the world has never seen. The continent has been transformed in ways that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. Yet in the view of Aftonbladet’s editors – and, rest assured, of the Swedish establishment generally – Europe has behaved like a fortress. Summed up in these two words, these twin trochees – “Fortress Europe” – is the very madness of Sweden.
Aftonbladet’s editors called on Sweden to pressure other EU countries to copy the new policy, and proposed that it make a more active effort to bring Syrians to its shores, namely by plucking them up at refugee camps in Syria and shipping them to Sweden from there. “Sweden can help. We have the knowledge and resources,” the editors of Aftonbladet wrote. “The question is whether we want to.”
Their counterparts at Sydsvenskan concurred, calling on other EU countries to follow Sweden’s lead. Dagen’s editors, calling the new policy an “excellent decision,” hoped it would set a good example for other countries and that “generosity” would continue to characterize Sweden’s approach to the refugee issue. And at Dagens Nyheter, columnist Eric Helmerson also gave the new policy a thumbs-up. “When your neighbors’ house is on fire,” he argued, “you open your door to them.” He, too, lamented the lack of “solidarity” (as he put it) that other EU members were exhibiting: “It’s scandalous that so many wealthy, peaceful countries are looking away from people in the most severe distress.” He singled out for special criticism certain Swedish municipalities that have hesitated to take in more refugees – partly because of the high cost of maintaining refugees, and partly because of the crime and other social problems that they bring with them. While acknowledging that such difficulties exist, Helmerson insisted that “it is deeply cynical to assume that the problems are insoluble and thus shirk responsibility and compassion.”
Columnist Ivar Arpi at Svenska Dagbladet joined in the applause for the new policy, calling it “irreproachable.” Striking an unexpected realistic note, however, he pointed out that Sweden’s municipalities just don’t have enough housing or the financial resources to take care of newcomers properly. Plus a fact, the Swedish job market is just plain terrible, with sky-high levels of unemployment, especially among the foreign-born.
How, then, does Sweden expect to pay to house and feed all these refugees? An article that appeared a couple of weeks ago provided an answer. The headline was blunt: “Malmö takes from the old and the sick and gives to immigrants.” The thrust of the report was that the city of Malmö, desperate to find a way to cover its ever-rising expenditures on immigrants (it spends $15 million a year on mother-tongue schooling alone), has proposed severe cuts in outlays for sick and elderly native Swedes.
Remember that we’re talking here about a country where the chief justification for high taxes is a generous welfare system that provides a safety net for the unemployed, the ill, and the elderly. Swedes are brought up to view themselves as partners in a covenant with the state: pay your way when you’re able to, and you’ll be taken care of when and if you aren’t. Yet in Malmö, thanks to the soaring costs associated with immigration, the local government can no longer keep its end of the deal.
Consequently, it has proposed that nursing-home fees be raised significantly; that free meals in nursing homes be phased out, forcing residents to cover their own food costs; that senior citizens who until now have been receiving free home care be forced to pay for it; that the elderly poor, who now receive discounts on various health-care services based on their income, be compelled to shell out the full price; and that old people who aren’t ambulatory, and thus can’t make it to a clinic, be charged extra for house calls. As for old people who simply don’t have the money to pay for food, shelter, or vital medical treatment, they’ll be forced to “abase themselves before municipal officials by asking to be exempt from the fees.”
Meanwhile, the Swedish government has ordered that illegal immigrants be given free medical and dental care.
Seen from abroad, it’s very clear where all this is leading. Why can’t the Swedes see it themselves?
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